Japan is considering whether to buy cruise missiles due to the increasing threat posed by North Korea’s ballistic missile development, according to officials quoted in The Japan Times on May 6. The government may include funds in the fiscal year 2018 budget for studying the feasibility of purchasing U.S. Tomahawk cruise missiles, according to the report. The missiles would likely be deployed on Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force Fleet.
North Korea’s ballistic missiles are capable of reaching Japan, and several North Korean ballistic missiles have splashed down in Japan’s territorial waters during tests. Although the purchase of Tomahawks may be viewed as contrary to Tokyo’s defensive military posture, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in January that striking North Korean launch sites would be self-defense. Japan would need to revise its five-year plan for a defensive buildup and its 10-year defense program guidelines, both set in 2013, before any purchase. The United States uses Tomahawk cruise missiles for conventional strikes, but has deployed several Tomahawk variants armed with nuclear warheads.—KELSEY DAVENPORT